"the blogger whose youthful effusions have won him bookmarks all over Whitehall ... horribly compelling" - The Guardian
Monday, January 05, 2004
The 20 Worst British Lefties of 2003
Last month I gave a little preview of my choice of the twenty worst British lefties of 2003. Here is the final list.
Throughout 2003, and stretching before that, the Home Secretary has talked tough and promised to act tough on our asylum system. Some of his statements were common sense, others more than a little unpleasant. But he signally failed to sort out rates of migration to these islands, which have peaked after being consistently low for a quarter-century. For every tough word, there has been another liberal policy, another amnesty for bogus asylum seekers which will encourage more to come to benefit from the next amnesty. With rates of migration to Britain now predicted to be at two million over the next decade, with all the evidence being that people want anything but a new wave of mass immigration, one can only imagine the harm that will be done to race relations because of this government's failure. This all mouth and no trousers approach climaxed in the government's disgusting announcement last month that it would take into care the children of bogus asylum seekers who refused to leave Britain after they had been rejected. In his cynicism Blunkett fails to realise that it isn't cruelty or vindictiveness people want: it's fairness. Let us hope that in 2004 the Home Secretary can learn to keep his mouth shut and will get to work on delivering it.
Like many modern poets and artists, this ex-con's work is conspicuous only for meeting standards attainable by anyone able to make a random mess of words (or paint) and speak in woolly terms about what it signifies. Of course, it isn't Mr Zephaniah's fault that the liberal establishment is so wary of merit and ability that it is ever-conscious to reward its absence. What he can be held responsible for is a disgraceful reflexive anti-imperialism and a spouting of history apparently learned more from Hollywood blockbusters than any serious accounts of the past. Britain did not introduce slavery to Africa, but she did bring it to an end there. In so ungratefully rejecting the OBE he was so undeservedly proffered, Benjamin Zephaniah seemed to endorse the exact opposite theory, before complaining that Tony Blair was threatening to privatise everyone. Apparently Zephaniah is so terrified of privatisation that he has convinced himself not only that he would prefer to be taken into public ownership, but that he already has been.
One of the greatest difficulties for anti-colonial warriors like Mr Zephaniah is that for all the loathing he supposedly feels for the British Empire, there are probably more people who share his hatred in one meeting of the New Statesman editorial board than in all of Africa and Asia. There are certainly more fingers on Benjamin Zephaniah's left hand than there are countries who ever left the British Commonwealth voluntarily. A third of the world retains that tie with Queen and Empire because the benefits Britain brought are so widely recognised. Just last week Zephaniah derided those who acknowledged these advantages as equivalent to judges who let a rapist off the hook because he gave his victim money for the bus home. If that level of ignorant contempt didn't earn him a place on this list, I wouldn't be doing my job.
My feelings on this Labour MP, of whom I had never heard until his gut-wrenching appraisal of Fidel Castro's Cuba, can best be summed up by the email I sent him the day he wrote it. Believe it or not, he did not see fit to reply.
Dear Mr Wilson,
I find your reservations in today's Guardian column most interesting. Even as you relate to us your cosy fireside chats with Fidel Castro and laud "what Cuba represents as a symbol of human potential" and the "integrity" of her achievements, you express some awareness that all is not perfect. Dare I ask what it is you find most objectionable about this socialist paradise? Was it the torture chambers? The thousands of executions of dissidents, estimates of which range from 2,000 to 22,000? (Note that this figure does not even include those killed during the Castro coup.) The turning of all of Cuba into one giant prison from which 2,000 to 50,000 died attempting to escape? You really are a stickler for the little things to allow these minor imperfections to spoil your impression of socialism in action. But if you insist on doing so, perhaps you might explain which of them perturbes you the most?
The classic defence of Mussolini - which you extended to Castro in slightly modified form today - was that he got the trains running on time. But if you think Castro's equivalent accomplishment was the ending of poverty, then it seems he failed even this test. What else can one say of a country that has since 1959 been transformed from the Western country [edit: this should read Latin American country] with the second-highest GDP per head into the Western [sic] country with the second-lowest per capita GDP? If you think that qualifies as eliminating poverty, I'm just glad I'm not your bank manager.
Amnesty International, not an organisation known for its ideological objections to left-wingers, has nonetheless documented admirably the treatment of people who dare exercise their democratic rights. See http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR250352003?open&of=ENG-CUB, http://web.amnesty.org/web/wire.nsf/July2003/Cuba and http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR250142003?open&of=ENG-CUB. All of the above reports on state-sponsored murders, incarceration of dissidents and other human rights abuses that have occurred this year. After what you have written today, I think you have a duty to read these few reports, remembering as you do what it was you were really toasting when you raised your glass to peace and socialism.
I was most amused recently to read Cathy Seipp's demolition of the NYT's professional airhead Maureen Dowd. It would be wrong to say that the profile fits Zoe Williams exceedingly well, but it certainly bears a far closer resemblance to her than any other British journalist I have read. You expect the occasional headline of the "Voting, It Like Sucks" variety even in broadsheet newspapers. It is very worrying when that seems to be the whole point of the column (search me if I can find another). It isn't just the vacuousness of many columns that makes them so dire. It's the simultaneously feeble and foul way with which disagreement is dealt: vicious and unmerited attacks on the arguer without any attempt to refute the argument. In a column arguing for the criminalising of choosing clergy on the basis of their faithfulness to scripture (thereby setting back freedom of religion in Britain nearly four centuries), she explained that all Christians who upheld Biblical morality were "extremists, or evangelicals, or whatever else you choose to call the homophobes in the church when, for some reason, 'bigots' won't do". To describe Jews who opposed a Chief Rabbi who ate pork in such terms would rightly be derided as the disgusting hatefulness that it is. But the equivalent attitude to Christians opposing practising homosexual - and therefore in Biblical terms adulterous - Bishops, is instead seen by our elites as some sort of extension of the civil rights movement.
Alongside the totalitarian closed-mindedness comes a weird sort of closetedness which permits the belief that the whole of the world is competing to prove itself to be politically correct, far-left, Guardian reading liberals because everyone knows there's nought cooler than a sandled-toed ignoramous screaming about Bush's prior knowledge of 9/11 and stopping every few minutes to praise asylum seekers. Taking columns from this month alone, Williams was astounded to discover that Catch-22 is not in fact everyone's favourite book.
That's why everyone always says Catch-22 - not because they think Heller to be easily as good as Roth, Mailer, Updike and Vonnegut rolled into one. No one thinks that. It's because of the myriad excellent messages enjoyment of this book gives off - I have a fine sense of humour; I'm anti-war and probably broadly leftwing; I have a healthy, questioning disrespect for authority; I like a bit of nooky, but not in a mean way, not like that Rabbit or that Zuckerman; and I'm highly intelligent, but I won't get all in your face about it. You probably want to go out with me, it says, and you're dead right.
We aren't all falling over ourselves to show what supercool lefties we are, eh? What a shock. Here's a similarly cranky verdict on February's anti-war march:
For the record, it was also the first march that, if you hadn't attended, you had to pretend you had, or at least make up an excuse.
The march in question was jointly organised by the Muslim Association of Britain, which believes in the execution of anyone who leaves the Islamic fold. Apparently Christians who want their clergy to wait until marriage before sex, as the Bible commands, are 'bigots'. But if Muslims who want to kill anyone who changes their mind about Islam hold a march, it seems it's the height of cool to goose-step along behind these sinister fanatics. Welcome to the mindset of the coming generation of lefties!
If this creepy-looking man doesn't symbolise the wonders of our liberal elite, I don't know quite who does. A very late entry, he managed to knocked Tessa 'Christmas is for Hindus and Muslims, but not Christians!' Jowell off the list completely. How? Well, he got involved in an interesting experience in democracy run by the BBC's Today programme. Any listener was invited to suggest a law that they would most like to see passed. Listeners were invited to vote on their favourite, and when it was chosen, Stephen Pound promised to use his influence to try to get it passed as a private members' bill. If it had sufficient parliamentary support, it would therefore become law. Not a bad idea, eh? Ordinary people would get some input into the law-making process, while parliament, which would ultimately decide whether the law was passed, would have its sovereignty retained.
The great British public responded to the poll by voting in favour of a genuinely commonsensical 'Tony Martin' law that would permit home-owners to use any means at their disposal to defend themselves against intruders who broke into their homes. Stephen Pound's response was to describe the voters as "bastards" and to make as clear as possible that he would put nought but the bare minimum of effort into aiding the process by which this expression of public will could face parliament. Instead, he opted to promote one of the losing suggestions.
Such disgusting, foul-mouthed comments and such an arrogant, contemptuous attitude to the people to whose voice he promised to listen sum up so precisely what happens to modern liberals when they come up against ordinary people's feelings. I hope ordinary voters will now return the favour. Indeed, I hope the Today programme holds just such a poll next year. It would be interesting to see how many people would vote for a bill to allow long-suffering voters to shoot lying, arrogant MPs who call them 'bastards' when they demand a little common sense.
In January of 2003, George Monbiot explained how the anti-war movement was progressing:
I think most of us have noticed that something has changed, that we are beginning to move on from the playing of games and the staging of parties, that we are coming to develop a more mature analysis, a better grasp of tactics, an understanding of the need for policy.
Seven months later, the Moonbat decided that "the playing of games and the staging of parties" wasn't so immature and tactically inept after all, and set himself up in a Unity coalition with such charming fellows as Tariq Ali and George Galloway. Meanwhile, he has used his Guardian column each week to make the most deranged envirowacko pleas, variously demanding that we have a moment's silence to remember in horror the development of the aeroplane, that we wrench drivers from their cars and that Britain be denied her democratic right to decide whether she wants to go to war. A devoted anti-American, he also wrote a book urging the third world to group together and default in unison on all its debts in the hope of smashing American power. Not only would this of course fail, but it would doom third world peoples for at least a generation as no investor with two brain cells to rub together would dare risk investing in an area of the world where property rights were so monumentally fragile.
Monbiot's high-powered extremism makes him more comic than anything else, but we should not let such people off the hook simply because no one takes them seriously.
This vigorous opponent of marriage has also been a phenomenal opponent of British business, carrying on the New Labour tradition of ensuring that many small businesses are little more than government bureaucrats and tax-collectors, turning up to work every day only to fill in forms and hand over their profits. The brave Ruth Lea of the Institute of Directors waged a brave campaign on behalf of those trying to get by in such a climate, and really showed signs of making an impact, appearing on television regularly to lambast Labour for its appalling anti-business record (only five of more than 400 Labour MPs have any business experience). Ruth Lea was sacked from the job she was performing so well this year, and I am told by those in a position to know that the one who fired her was aided very handsomely in a way only governments can help people shortly afterwards, and that this is no coincidence. I certainly wouldn't put it past the people who brought you the scandals of Ecclestone, Lobbygate, Mittalgate, Mandelson (twice), Rose Addis, Jo Moore, the Paddington survivors, Dr Kelly and the Hindujas. Rather than admit they are wrong and work ease the pain of their own folly, people like Hewitt will go to almost any lengths.
When the Ark Royal crew banned the BBC from being watched on deck, the anti-war bias being so bad, the response of this big-name Labour donor turned BBC Director General was not to investigate why his organisation's editorial line was so indistinguishable from the Guardian's, but to go to the United States to denounce the consequences of broadcasting freedom and genuine competition there.
The BBC topped off this outrage by producing a four part series glorifying the evil Cambridge Four, traitors who abused their positions at the heart of the British establishment to pass on military secrets to Joseph Stalin, ensuring the deaths of hundreds of British intelligence agents and thousands of brave resistance fighters in Eastern Europe.
During the First World War, the Bishop of London gave the following assessment of how to deal with the German menace:
To save Liberty's own self, to save the honour of women and the innocence of children, everything that is noblest in Europe, everything that loves freedom and honour, everyone that puts principle above ease, and life itself beyond mere living, are banded in the great crusade - we cannot deny it - to kill Germans: to kill them not for the sake of killing, but to save the world; to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young men as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends who crucified the Canadian sergeant, who superintended the Armenian massacres, who sank the Lusitania and who turned the machine-guns on the civilians of Aerschott and Louvain - and to kill them lest the civilisation of the world should itself be killed.
And here are some of the thoughts of the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on how to deal with the modern-day Islamofascist menace:
If I decide to answer [an act of war] in the same terms, that is how the conversation will continue ... Bombast about evil individuals doesn't help in understanding anything ... We have something of the freedom to consider whether or not we turn to violence and so, in virtue of that very fact, are rather different from those who experience their world as leaving no other option ... What possible guarantee could there be that the abolition of terrorism had been achieved [by the war against the Taliban, which] assaulted public morale by allowing random killing as a matter of calculated policy ... As we protest at how the West is hated, how we never meant to oppress or diminish other cultures, how we never intended to undermine Islamic integrity, we must try not to avoid the pain of grasping that we are not believed ... It is hard to start any sort of conversation when your conversation partner believes, in all sincerity, that your aim is to silence them.
The Rev. Peter Mullen has already gone into how morally warped and theologically amateur the Archbishop's sort of thinking is, but I think the contrast in the two quotes says as much about the decline of the church as any such analysis. In the space of just ninety years, the C of E has gone from moral absolutism to the point of callousness to moral obtuseness to the point of bending over backwards so far to avoid recognition of evil that most leading clergymen could now be their own proctologists. One of the most important religious messages of recent years has to be President Bush's declaration that "God is not indifferent" between the forces of democracy, peace and liberty and those of terror, destruction and murder. That such a message had to come from a Texan politician rather than the leader of the world's Anglicans, who would almost certainly shun every premise on which the message is based, speaks volumes about what is wrong with Rowan Williams.
His feeble stance on terrorism has been rivalled, however, by his equally vacuous stance on the issue on which the church, denied firm leadership, is swiftly splitting. At a time when marriage is weak and weakening, it is not less important that the church be a contrary voice, warning the rest of society about the course on which it is being swept, but more. When all around you are losing their heads, it is all the more imperative to keep yours. But largely down to Rowan Williams, who failed to recognise the signal importance of these issues, the Jeffrey John fiasco went on for months and was followed by the outrage of Gene Robinson actually reaching the Bishopry, accepting the seals of office while stood next to the man he shacked up with after abandoning the woman he married and the children they brought into the world. It is inconceivable that had Williams stood firm against the rise to this level of the Anglican hierarchy of these men, the church as a whole would not have supported him strongly. Instead he equivocated for weeks and weeks, finally caving in on the Jeffrey John case, while allowing the far worse case of Gene Robinson to result in his consecration. His theological stance on the issue - that the Bible condemns homosexual acts, but perhaps only opposes them when committed by heterosexual people! - makes Ian Huntley's excuses look reasonable and sane. As the Spectator noted at the time, one may as well say that although the Bible condemns incest, its prohibitions only apply in cases where the sexual partners are unrelated.
Not only has Rowan Williams delved endlessly into politics in his short time in office, he has also learned many of its lower tricks. The Archbishop of Canterbury leaked his own Christmas message to the press, an astonishing diminution in the respect for which the holder of the office judges its standards. Par for the course, he used that message to denounce Western governments for alienating moderate Muslim opinion by cracking down hard on Islamic terrorism, and then to complain at those who sneered at Christian faith. Men like the Archbishop make such sneering at the C of E seem justifiable not only to athiests, but to devoted Christians, too. If the leader of the Anglican church will not stand up for Christian morality, he can't be surprised if no one respects the faith he claims to uphold.
Besides describing the NHS as the most efficient health system in the world, welcoming every measure that makes Britain worse, calling for Blair to implement PR to "exclude the right from power for ever", Toynbee has spent 2003 above all demanding free universal child care for the under fives. Her horror at the idea of young kids being raised by their own parents was summed up in her call - sounding like something right out of Brave New World - for the state to be the best parent any child can have. Perhaps the leading representative of truly useless and reactionary politics in Britain, Polly's answer to every problem is more government, but she can't even match her determined defence of the mega-state with a commitment to basic democratic ideals.
Much has been made of late of Toynbee's unfortunate folly in being taken in by one of those Nigerian money scams, spam for which no doubt fills your inbox. I don't see what is so surprising about this - Polly has made a career out of falling for those who take your money and promise the earth without ever giving anything back. From the welfare state to the European Union, this has always been the gullible attitude she has taken to such fruitless scams. What makes the Nigerian scam different is it was Polly's own money and no one else's that was lost when it succeeded. Would that it were so for the rest.
'Resign: Will she, won't she?' the press raged, as Miss Short restated again and again her absolute opposition to a war on Iraq without UN endorsement. I mentioned BBC bias above, and Clare Short in the first quarter of this year was the perfect example of the subtle but permanent effect of this. "The conscience of the Labour Party" was the phrase we heard from them again and again and again, as if this closed-minded leftist who in Cabinet regularly compared the Ulster Unionists to Mosley's British Union of Fascists was Jimminy Cricket to Tony Blair. Just imagine someone like John Redwood being described as the conscience of the Conservative Party. It wouldn't happen.
So when Blair didn't listen to his 'conscience', what did this conscience do? Nothing. After all her promises, after everything she said, Clare Short stayed in the cabinet as war was waged, her career ending (hopefully for good) with a futile resignation weeks later.
Gary Younge began 2003 as the Guardian's new Washington correspondent, and soon returned to the same old pitch - race, race and race. Despite waxing lyrical in one repugnantly positive column about the African-American version of the KKK, the Black Panthers, this man feels free to see and condemn racism anywhere and everywhere. In his world, if Gary Younge's shelf falls off the wall, it's because of racism. If a black woman makes a spelling mistake, it's because of racism. If it rains on a Thursday, it's because of racism. Of course, I exaggerate. Or do I? This is a man who condemned the British Army for having so few ethnic minorities among its ranks while condemning the US Army for having so many ethnic minorities among its ranks fighting wars in which they supposedly did not believe. Gary Younge exists to serve the modern left's need to feel ever more liberal guilt, a job he serves perfectly, which is infinitely more than can be said for his performance as a journalist and columnist. Well, you made it to #9 this year, Gary, but as Jackie has said, "it ain't because you is black. It's because you is crap".
Hattersley is conspicuous for his mediocrity in everything he has done.* His Guardian columns are generally tiresome and dull "Attlee was right" screeds. His works of political philosophy were widely derided (he sent the first draft of one book to the liberal philosopher John Rawls for advice, only to be counselled to start it again from scratch). His Keynesian price controls when Minister for Prices and Incomes in the 1974-79 government provoked the Winter of Discontent. He ran in the 1983 Labour leadership election and lost to Neil Kinnock, who with two General Election defeats to his name stands out as probably the greatest political failure of modern times. Nonetheless, Hattersley was so impressed he later welcomed his own defeat, saying that Kinnock was a better leader than he could have been. For once, he may be right. He went on as Deputy Leader, standing right behind the aforementioned failed leadership for nine long years.
Many critical things have been written about this man in the last year or so, from the left - perturbed by his reversal of a career-long opposition to PR, amongst other things - and the right - baffled by his obsessive devotion to the party line. All of it was merited and fair. But what above all earns Hattersley a place on this list for me, however, was an almost inhuman column last April on the Ulster Peace Process, a process that he wrote would one day be seen as a British surrender. Surrender to the terror group that brought us Bloody Friday, Enniskillen, the murders of Lord Mountbatten and Ian Gow, the Brighton Bomb, a hundred other atrocities, thousands of mutilations and 'community policing' murders of fellow Catholics did not worry Hattersley, however. His only objective was to hasten this self-confessed surrender process. He went on to condemn men who entered the IRA to make some money out of their narcotics rackets. But he did this in a favourable contrast with those IRA thugs who entered the terror group because they really, genuinely wanted to kill our boys, bully and torture their neighbours and bomb fish and chip shops: they were "motivated by idealism". That's alright then.
It turns my stomach to think that such a military pygmy and such a moral cretin ever dared represent this country, including our servicemen and their families, in parliament. That he rose as far as he did in the Labour Party should be of great shame to them, although fairness dictates that Labour equally be credited with changing to the degree that such a man would be most unlikely to reach such a position today.
It only proves that this was a year when the left went into hyperdrive that Hattersley couldn't even make it into the top seven.
* He himself confesses his own paucity of achievement. When asked to name his greatest, he mentioned his changing the of rule by which young soldiers were bound, allowing those who didn't feel suited to a life of protecting us all from the bullets and bombs of IRA idealists to leave sooner than before.
Defying the United Nations to wage war on Iraq last March may now be the thing for which Blair will be most remembered. It was certainly the one truly courageous and right act of his premiership, which enters its eighth year in a few months. But even 2003 stood out as a particularly bad year for the Prime Minister. It was the year he showed his cowardice in rejecting a referendum on the euro this side of the next election - and on the European Constitution at any time. He also showed his contempt for the democratic rights of the British people in promising to sign up to the latter in any case, irrespective of consistent opposition from about 80% of voters.
The EU Constitution issue demonstrates three of the most chilling features of our Prime Minister; his apparent lack of any patriotic concern, of respect for the wisdom and workings of tradition or even a sense of limitations on what powers he has the right to exercise. In October, Iain Duncan Smith felt it necessary to remind Tony Blair that the powers he was given on 2 May 1997 were not his to destroy and surrender as he wished, but were instead held in trust to be given back to the people at election time. That any Prime Minister could be as transparently unaware of this basic democratic principle is frightening.
An equal example of the folly that is the hallmark of almost all Blairite reforms was this year's main cabinet reshuffle. Without blinking, the Prime Minister redrew a fundamental part of our constitution on the back of an envelope to make the reshuffle easier, scrapping the Lord Chancellor, an office that has existed for fourteen centuries, without any consultation or apparent thought about the wider consequences of such judicial reform. A few days later, he was forced to restore the office for the time being simply because he didn't have any other solution to the problem his own sloppiness had created. For almost any logical person, the way to approach any serious reform is to ask whether the thing being changed after serving us for so long really is doing a bad job, and whether the proposed changes really are likely to ensure a better one. For Blair, it seems anything reflective of Britain's history and culture is automatically ripe for reform, irrespective of the often catastrophic results.
There were dozens more uses and abuses of power last year which demonstrated what was so wrong with this Prime Minister: his alleged chairing of the meetings where it was decided Dr Kelly would be named, leading to the man's suicide; his feebleness over foundation hospitals, ensuring the NHS will now continue for years on its present course of sucking up public money without noticeable improvement; his arbitrary 50% target for school leavers entering higher education, revealing a philistine's contempt for the notion that universities should be there for the particularly clever rather than as a finishing school to soak up youth unemployment; his caving in to his own backbenchers over the conditions for top-up fees, ensuring that if they are introduced the students who take the courses that are valued by employers and consumers will end up paying higher fees to subside those who take Mickey Mouse courses and never earn enough subsequently to pay their fees back; his complete indifference to the rights of the people of Gibraltar, and his obvious lack of pride that we own it, something that comes naturally to most Britons; his latest attempt to ban country sports ... the list goes on and on. Thankfully, people are waking up more and more all the time to the worthlessness of Blair's combination of ineffectual reform and deliberate advancement of an anti-British agenda. Given a good enough Hutton Report and/or the inevitable continuation of Blair's failure to sort out our public sector, the man could easily be gone by 2005. We can only hope.
A rather weird lizard-collector, this otherwise non-descript man is hardly bursting with achievements to his name. He has himself recognised this, and chosen to blame the people who created the Mayoralty for giving it no real power for him to exercise. Maybe so. But I would still nominate one clear front-runner as his most substantial achievement. That is Red Ken's success in portraying himself as a noble warrior fighting for the people ever since the GLC was scrapped for its incompetence and undemocratic actions in 1986. It's obvious that most of the people who buy into this myth actually believe Ken Livingstone was elected. In fact, his rise to the top of the Greater London Council was one of the most shameful and digusting acts of contempt for the voters in recent decades. Just sixteen hours after a new Labour council was elected, with Andrew McIntosh at its head, Livingstone organised his supporters - a gang of Marxists, militants, sexual 'liberationists' and IRA supporters - and removed McIntosh from power, ensuring Londoners woke up to his new style of reign. One doesn't want to go too far into his dodgy dealings in the 1980s, from his use of taxpayers' money to fund extremist groups with names like 'Babies Against the Bomb' and 'Sinn Fein Lesbians for Peace' to his talks with the IRA while they were bombing Londoners, but it is important to recognise that the scrapping of his GLC was about protecting Londoners from the arbitrary power of a man only 5% of them had heard of the night he lead a coup that put him in charge of London. His portrayal of himself as a brave defender of democracy is absurd.
Since his return to office in 2000, Red Ken has made his presence known in similarly disgusting ways. Telling a group of students earlier this year that he was as keen to see President Bush removed from power as Saddam Hussein gave Mayoral authority to the most shameful moral relativism. Saddam was a tyrant of the most bloodthirsty and murderous variety, a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in his wars and purges, who used rape of family members as a tool to maintain political support and whose medieval torture chambers were used to inflict misery and pain on countless dissidents over the two decades of his reign. You don't have to be a Bush supporter to see how contemptible such comparisons are - you just have to be a decent human being.
And Ken left no room for doubt about that question later on in the year. When David Blaine began his stunt over the River Thames, there were many legitimate criticisms a Mayor of London could have levelled, ranging from the cost of security to the traffic problems created. What Ken Livingstone did instead was to condemn the exercise as an insult to the memory of that filthy waste of a skeleton Bobby Sands. As Lady Thatcher noted after the IRA crook's death on hunger strike, Sands chose to end his life; it was not a choice his terror group often extended to its victims. But in Ken's warped mind we should still be careful to honour this man's suicide.
As the year came to an end, he decided to spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on a reception for the Muslim Association of Britain (see #17) after their march against Bush. I hope everyone who now has to pay the congestion charge merely to drive in central London knows where their money is spent, and bears that in mind when they cast their vote in a few months time, and help to determine whether Ken Livingstone will be the man to take London into 2008.
There are plenty of John Pilgers, Robert Fisks, Paul Foots, Yasmin Alibhai-Browns and George Monbiots in the British press, spewing out their anti-Western bile and sneering at the troops to whom they owe their freedom and security. But even they have not gone so far as to endorse openly and plainly the terrorists now murdering British and American forces in Iraq. Tariq Ali has gone that far and sunk that low.
In his columns, Ali has urged anti-war activists to support the Iraqi terrorist resistance on the grounds that they alone have prevented supporters of the war from claiming absolute victory. In itself, of course, such reasoning is monstrous: better that dozens of our boys be killed than Ali admit he got it wrong. But he also makes clear in his columns that it is more than that. Tariq Ali really believes that Baathists and Islamofascists have more legitimacy as rulers of Iraq than the coalition who freed the country from Saddam's tyranny. His weird sense of 'solidarity' with fellow Arabs has produced the sickest, most provincial of outlooks, which deems the worst of government by Arabs better than any form of government from the West, however sensitive to local concerns and however temporary. If 2002 was the moment hatred of the West in all its works became mainstream on the left, 2003 was the year it manifested itself in a self-loathing so great as to welcome annihilation. Tariq Ali symbolises that phenomenon better than almost anyone.
2003 seems to have been quite a year for British IRA sympathisers to crawl out of the woodwork, but none were as open and as wicked in their declarations as John McDonnell. In reference to the IRA's thirty-year terror campaign, he said the following:
We are in the last stage of the imperialist intervention in Ireland and only [the IRA's] armed struggle has stopped it.
It is difficult to know where to begin in explaining all the things that are wrong with this statement, both factually and morally. British rule in Northern Ireland is not "imperialist intervention", but the settled will of the majority of the people living there, including a great many Catholics. Commending the IRA for the existence of the peace process is so twisted as to be beyond belief. One could just as easily say that we should be thankful for the bombs and gas chambers of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis because without them there would have been no Nuremberg trials. Without the IRA there would have been no need for a peace process! Ulstermen could have settled their problems democratically, and those who wanted a united Ireland could have campaigned for people's votes, not murdered them. Even if one accepts that somehow the IRA should be commended for entering into the peace process which their mass-murder made necessary, it was not their own goodwill that initiated it, but their recognition that they could never defeat the British Army. It was precisely the steadfast approach of decent people who loathe the IRA that made their 'struggle' seem so hopeless that they were willing to enter a decade of political compromise. If we had listened to people like McDonnell and avoided any attempt to fight back militarily, and to use our security forces to eliminate leading Sinn Fein/IRA members, the IRA might still be bombing British towns and cities today, believing they had a chance of outright victory. It was only by facing down the terrorist scum that we ensured a period of relative peace - a 'peace' regularly punctuated by IRA violence on fellow Catholics, of course, something McDonnell is either too ignorant or too evil to care about.
It's not sufficient to say that McDonnell himself, and his comments, are morally repugnant. It is also a fact that anyone who has lived in this country as long as he has and witnessed the images of cities blown to bits by IRA bombs, of families devastated, of cowardly murders of our boys, is lacking in the most basic humanity if they can say what he did. Yet still he sits as an MP, the Labour Party apparently seeing fit to retain him. I just hope to God that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will do everything they can to unseat this despicable man at the next election. They must not sit on his comments through fear of 'negative campaigning'. Anyone with a record as foul as McDonnell's deserves to be exposed, and his opponents will be failing in their duty if they do not ensure every house in the constituency receives at least one leaflet making clear his support for terrorism. If everyone is aware of what he has said, it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which any decent person could turn out and put a cross next to his name. If John McDonnell is returned as an MP at the next election, it will be as shameful as the election of an MP for the British National Party who had made speeches celebrating the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Decent local activists of all political stripes must ensure it does not happen.
"If I meet a powerful man, I ask five questions: What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And, how can I get rid of you?" said Tony Benn at every stage show he presented in 2002.
So when Benn travelled to Iraq on the eve of war to meet Saddam Hussein, what were his five questions?
1. Mr President, may I ask you some questions. The first is, does Iraq have any weapons of mass destruction?
Nothing about the hundreds of thousands dead, the suppression of all liberties, the links with and support for terrorism. Saddam of course milked the interview for all it was worth as a propaganda weapon, making clear his sympathy for the Palestinians and expressing his admiration for the global peace movement. Tony Benn must have known the interview would do nothing but bolster Saddam, especially when his questions were so feeble, but still he went to Iraq, closing his long career by performing the duty of Saddam's useful idiot to perfection. The moral blindness of his anti-war stance is best described by Nick Cohen.
On 15 February 2003 he was a star speaker at the anti-war march which brought 750,000 to the streets of London, according to the police, and two million according to the organisers. An anomalous figure stood alone in the crowd. Sama Hadad was a refugee from Iraq and was demonstrating against the demonstrators. "Everyone here is wrong," she told Benn. "Everyone here has a moral and humanitarian duty to call for the removal of Saddam Hussein and to create a just and democratic Iraq ... Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dying."
Another one to attend that march was the Liberal Democrat leader. "Picture it." Kennedy once wrote in reference to a future campaign against the euro. "Margaret Thatcher, Tony Benn, Norman Tebbit and William Hague, perhaps even Ian Paisley, together at a press launch". Well so far we haven't seen such a press launch. What we have seen is Charles Kennedy, Tony Benn, George Galloway and Tariq Ali addressing communists, Islamofascists and silly students on a march jointly organised by the aforementioned Muslim Association of Britain and the Stop the War Coalition, which is led by Andrew Murray, a supporter of North Korea who celebrates Stalin's birthday. It is difficult to underestimate the chorus of execration that would greet any Tory leader who joined a march organised by the BNP. But it is safe to say that no excuse offered would be acceptable. If the press took a consistent attitude to communist and fascist extremism, Kennedy would not be Lib Dem leader today.
The above quote comes from Kennedy's 2000 book The Future of Politics. A few pages previously, we see this astonishing pearl of wisdom: "Once reformed, the UN would be able to take on roles that it has so far been unable to fulfil. In particular, it must become capable of intervening in the affairs of countries which are seriously violating the rights of their people." Just a few years later, he went to the furthest lengths and sank to the lowest depths to prevent just such an intervention, and to support a UN veto of the Iraq war, in full knowledge of the enormous human rights violations of Saddam Hussein. I don't condemn those who doubt it is the UN's job to police the world, but I do condemn those who basically assert that it is, but then do everything they can to prevent this a couple of years later.
Nor does the matter end with Iraq. Kennedy gets two questions a week at Prime Minister's Questions, and since Iraq he seems to have used his almost every week to plead the case of the Guantanamo Bay captives. They could certainly have a speedier trial, but the notion that these alleged terrorists are of such importance in a time of rocketing violent crime, stagnating public services and rising taxes and borrowing that they merit this attention is utterly barmy. There are larger concerns than a few "British" thugs caught in Afghanistan fighting for the Taliban - or there are for most people.
It's difficult to know what section of the war on terror Charles Kennedy's Lib Dems are actually willing to support. Yes, his Defence spokesman supported the war on the Taliban, but his International Development spokesman strongly opposed it. It was this ambiguity that the adulterous Labour MP Paul Marsden feel comfortable about crossing over to the Lib Dems after he was rightly compared to the appeasers of the 1930s. The Liberal Democrats are unambiguous in their willingness to join marches led by Islamofascists who want to execute the unbeliever, but any sign of a crackdown on such people after they put their plans in action on 9/11 has been met with little but hostility from little Charlie's Lib Dems.
2003 was also the year the party made clearer than ever that it wanted prison reserved only for the most violent offenders, inflicting a new tide of misery on millions of people as criminal hordes robbed and mugged them without even the feeble chance that now exists of them being locked up for their crimes. By the time of the Brent East by-election, the party received the full endorsement of the Muslim Association of Britain in its campaign. "Execute the unbeliever, vote Lib Dem!" has a certain ring to it; the MAB should have joined the campaign. A week later, at its 2003 conference, Kennedy's rabble voted to make sex education lessons involving discussion of transsexuality compulsory for seven year olds, irrespective of parental wishes, but they also passed a motion to make it a crime to give children the prize of a goldfish at fairgrounds. Yet through all of this mixture of the vile and absurd, despite sinking lower than any major party leader has for many years (Michael Foot in the Falklands was a model of moderacy and support for Britain by comparison), Charles Kennedy managed to retain his smug sense of superiority. I hope he had plenty to drink on New Year's Eve. He certainly had a lot to forget.
Why him? If you need to ask, I don't think you would get it.